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Reading List: Opportunity to Learn “Artifacts”: Explaining Updraft/Downdraft

Crawford, M. & Dougherty, E. (2003). Updraft/Downdraft: Secondary Schools in the Crosswinds of Reform. Lahham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education. pp. 11-59. Available for purchase at


Note: Chapters 3 and 4 are priority readings.


This book will serve as a framework for our Session II and III discussions of institutional factors and conditions that foster the success of some students, and not others. The authors contend that core resources, such as teacher expertise, instructional time, and funding are typically allocated in ways that benefit “updraft” groups of students who are on-track for success, leaving “downdraft” students with less-qualified teachers, fewer instructional minutes, and fewer resources overall. The book provides tools to help schools identify and address these inequities through an analysis of “artifacts.”


Chapter 2 – Updraft/Downdraft

This chapter summarizes the “Updraft/downdraft” concept. Highlighting research on high school academics and graduation, the authors discuss forces that drive low achievement for some groups of students. They note that teachers are often forced to focus on maintaining order in the classroom, which can result in lower expectations for student effort and achievement and ultimately the disengagement of students from learning.


**Chapter 3 – What are Artifacts and Why Use Them?

Chapter 3 discusses the nature of school and classroom artifacts that can be collected and analyzed to identify conditions that support or constrain quality teaching. Artifacts include, among others, school calendars, master schedules, student schedules, course syllabi, teacher-made assignments, and scored student work. The authors contend that examining these artifacts closely can help schools make decisions that correct or create more equitable conditions and infrastructures for teaching.


**Chapter 4 – A High School Case Study

This chapter walks through an example artifact analysis at a diverse high school. It examines the time available for teaching and learning in a calendar year, master schedules, teacher-student loads, and student schedules to identify inequities in teaching and learning.


Finkelstein, N.D. & Fong, A.B. (2008). Course-taking patterns and preparation for postsecondary education in California's public university systems among minority youth. (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2008-No. 035). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West. Available at


This study documents patterns of high school course-taking associated with preparation for college and entry into two-year California community colleges and four-year CSU and UC institutions. The findings demonstrate a consistent pattern: students who complete college-preparatory courses in 9th grade begin a clear trajectory that continues throughout high school. Students who fall off the college-preparatory track early in high school tend to move further away from the college preparatory program through high school. In addition, making up missed courses and academic content is likely to be difficult for students who put off college-preparatory work until later in their high school career. These findings suggest that early intervention is critical.


**This document is considered a priority reading.